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The bane of Eastern Christianity in America #417616
10/22/17 08:44 AM
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The young fogey Offline OP
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The bane of Eastern Christianity in America, Catholic and Orthodox: you can do everything right, from offering the traditional services translated into English to a wonderful youth program, and most of the grandchildren still leave. I don't have a solution. (I'm not knocking the East: I go part-time to a Ukrainian Catholic parish and have Russian Orthodox icons and prayer books.)

Last edited by The young fogey; 10/22/17 08:47 AM.
Re: The bane of Eastern Christianity in America [Re: The young fogey] #417650
10/24/17 02:40 PM
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Christ is in our midst!!

This problem is universal. Among some things that are problems to consider and overcome:

1. Sunday is no longer sacred. Many parents will tell you that their child will be tossed from the team, from the play, or from some other activity if they are not present Sunday morning.
2. School activities seem to demand evenings and weekends that are not Sunday for activities, too.
3. The schools are anti-Christian. Make no mistake that the things we teach in church are challenged day-in and day-out, class after class. The media is also beating the drum in this area. Christianity is blamed for every malady that plagues our country and our culture. The assault is on Western civilization as a whole and its foundation is the Church.
4. Peer culture plays a big part. There are so many things pulling young people in every community and, for every one of our teaching, there is a counter teaching in another community that a peer will put up to challenge our youth.
5. Youth is a tough time and everyone wants to find his/her way and "fit in" in some fashion. No one likes to be challenged by peers.
6. Sometimes family is part of the mix, especially if anyone has the legalistic attitude about how much or how little one "has to do."

These are a few things we have discussed at my parish in small groups. They are not the only things, but a start. We have a mountain to climb, but the Lord is in charge and His Holy Spirit is alive and well to help us out.

Bob

Re: The bane of Eastern Christianity in America [Re: The young fogey] #417654
10/24/17 06:01 PM
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Sure, all the churches in America are hurting for those reasons, but evangelicalism sure holds its own, and Latin Catholicism can take the hit because it was so big (but it has shrunk a lot). The puzzle is why Eastern Christianity despite all its spiritual riches (no heresy, an artistic "unreformed" rite, great cultures, and intense prayer) disappears when its people assimilate in America. A down side of being so connected to certain Old World cultures? Protestant America is that inhospitable? (That didn't stop Latin Catholicism from the 1800s until the 1960s. Its success scared the Protestants.) I think its great unrealized potential here is it can fly under the radar of Protestants' and secular people's prejudice (they hate what they think Catholicism is) to present them with... traditional Catholicism. Traditional services with a vernacular option? Married priests? Mysticism you thought you had to dabble in Hinduism for? It's all here. The recent Orthodox convert boomlet hinted at that potential being realized. But most of the people born into it in America leave.

Re: The bane of Eastern Christianity in America [Re: The young fogey] #417657
10/25/17 09:25 AM
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I know at least two Orthodox parishes in the Philadelphia area that were founded in the 20's-30's and are still thriving. My ACROD parish (founded in the 30's) has as many kids in it as adults on many Sundays.

Re: The bane of Eastern Christianity in America [Re: The young fogey] #417674
10/26/17 10:52 AM
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Christ is in our midst!!

Swan:

What do you attribute this success to? Can we duplicate it?

Bob

Re: The bane of Eastern Christianity in America [Re: The young fogey] #417676
10/26/17 02:57 PM
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I can only speculate but I would guess three factors have some part to play:

1. All services are in English. These parishes have a particular historic ethnic background (Carpatho-Rus') but are not centered on it- they are not closed off to the local culture and community.
2. The parishes are small enough so that everybody knows everybody.
3. Parents are encouraged to bring their kids and no one yells at them for making noise or wandering around.

Re: The bane of Eastern Christianity in America [Re: The young fogey] #417677
10/28/17 09:04 AM
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But most such parishes can do all three and still sink.

Re: The bane of Eastern Christianity in America [Re: The young fogey] #417678
10/28/17 02:05 PM
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Christ is in our midst!!

It seems to me that what any community needs to stay afloat is just what it means to be a "community"--a "common unity," a sense of being community, a sense that everyone belongs, is welcome, is needed, is vital for the community to continue. If a parish becomes a "spiritual filling station," a place where I come to get what I need and I don't care who sits next to me or who else belongs in the place, then one has the beginning of the end. It may take time, but a place without a sense of community will never stand the test of time.

How a community establishes, maintains, and grows its sense of community may have many answers. But somehow the Holy Spirit finds a fertile ground in which to work and the people act as His leaven. This is not to say that the Holy Spirit is not active in other places or even in a "spiritual filling station," but it seems to me that it makes it a bit harder for the Spirit to produce the yield He wishes.

I think it boils down to a comment that a new person made in my parish some years ago. She said that she enjoyed coming to LIturgy with us because she felt that each and every person wanted to be there and enjoyed each other's company.

Maybe that's the key--people want to be part of the community and they enjoy each and every person who is there--just for their being present. And enjoying Liturgy, they come back to be part of all the other activities that the parish sponsors to bring people together and to witness and serve the greater community of which the parish is part.

Bob

Re: The bane of Eastern Christianity in America [Re: The young fogey] #417705
11/03/17 02:09 PM
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It is really unfair to draw comparisons between the American evangelical world and Eastern Christianity in the West.
How many Great Awakenings has American Protestantism gone through? I have lost count. Though it is hardly monolithic, American evangelicalism constantly has to reinvent itself (I am thinking here about non-rural areas). But it does have a spectrum as wide as American society. The successes of one generation lead to the undoing of the next -- I am thinking here especially of the adoption of tactics of the commercial culture at one extreme and following the verities of academia at the other.
With every generation, Eastern Christians (and to a lesser degree Roman Catholics) become assimilated to American "mush". This should come as no surprise to the kind of religious minority the ECs have been. American society now offers too many distractions to anyone from a traditional faith to maintain institutional stability.
It is tempting to find hopeful parallels in the Jewish community, but as it is even more ethnically based (and in a different way) than Eastern Christianity, that would draw unrealistic comparisons as well.

Re: The bane of Eastern Christianity in America [Re: theophan] #417746
11/10/17 06:01 AM
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Originally Posted by theophan
I think it boils down to a comment that a new person made in my parish some years ago. She said that she enjoyed coming to LIturgy with us because she felt that each and every person wanted to be there and enjoyed each other's company.


Lilnk: Catholicism: "Here comes everybody," even the annoying ones.

The problem with the romance of "gathered communities" and "small Christian communities," such as ethnic-based congregations or Episcopalian-style congregationalism as in a charming Anglo-Catholic parish, is they can become clubs for "my set," not really churches. Michael Cuneo, not a conservative Catholic, once noted that American Novus Ordo often really is for only one kind of person; middle-class decorum like mainline Protestantism. Disclosure: I don't belong to my territorial parish, instead belonging to a semi-traditionalist magnet parish.

Re: The bane of Eastern Christianity in America [Re: The young fogey] #417769
11/14/17 12:17 PM
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Christ is in our midst!!

Actually we try to go out of our way to be welcoming to everyone who comes along. We try to meet everyone where he is, not where we, or anyone else, thinks they should be. It gets messy, but we've all got a long way to go in being faithful--being the image of Christ to those we meet each day. If I fail to be the image of Christ to another person, I have failed twice--I have failed Him and I have failed the one He put in front of me.

Bob

Re: The bane of Eastern Christianity in America [Re: The young fogey] #417946
01/30/18 04:44 AM
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I think that Eastern Catholicism needs to take more responsibility for evangelizing, catechizing and retaining members. I look at my own EC parish. It's 1/2 a mile from a major university campus, and 1/2 a mile from a large Newman Center. It's also about a 1/4 of a mile away from a large Latin Rite parish. Yet it remains completely isolated from all three.

The blame for this isolation is placed on the three other institutions. It belong squarely on the pastor of my EC parish and those that came before him, along with those that attend the parish.

The truly tiny Greek Orthodox Church right next door has a great relationship with the Greek Club on the university campus and a large fraternity across the street. It puts on a Greek festival every summer in the center of town on a Sat/Sun which draws thousands, raises a lot of $$$ and exposes many people to the Greek Orthodox Faith.

I suspect my parish will close one day. The parish will be sold for a great deal of money and it will be razed to make room for more student housing. Until then they'll be little more than bitter gossip about how others don't seek us out, how it's their fault we remain isolated.

Re: The bane of Eastern Christianity in America [Re: Exegete] #417954
01/30/18 06:22 PM
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Exegete:

Christ is in our midst!!

What you describe that the Greek Orthodox parish does that yours does not boils down to some group theory principles. First of all, this group knows who they are, but they are not closed in on themselves. They reach out to others in their community--the university club that is similar to them, for example. They reach out to the greater community, too, with their annual festival--"come be part of something different that we are and we want to share." We're here and we want to share this great treasure that we have--the Orthodox faith.

The Greek parish also has become proactive. Why wait for people to "seek us out"? Let's go out seeking others inviting people in by providing some things of interest. Drawing people into our worship is the last thing that will come after people learn who we are and decide that they want to be part of the group that we are.

So maybe your parish needs to come up with some sort of festival or other activity that will draw people into your neighborhood. For example, my son's college Newman Club held a weekly spaghetti dinner open to students no matter if they were Catholic or not. I don't know how much it served to draw people in, but there is always the chance that someone who is looking for some place to belong will decide to join. We all seek to be part of some group--to belong. Isolation is not fun. However, we can't wait for people to come to us. We have to go out and seek them out, offering a place for them to belong, even if it's only for an annual festival. It does take work and everyone in the parish must get on board. My parish has a free dinner for anyone who can come three times a year, something we do with other churches so that the poor can have a free meal on each Saturday of the year.

If your parish is a "spiritual filling station"--where people only come to satisfy their own needs and have a limited commitment to the group--yes, you will see the place close. A group, a parish, or any other collection of people needs to both have a commitment by each member to each other and also a commitment to drawing more people into the group: we have to be committed internally and externally. This is important in this age when people feel alienated and are looking for a place to feel wanted and valuable.

Bob

Re: The bane of Eastern Christianity in America [Re: theophan] #417965
02/03/18 04:32 PM
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Thank you for your reply, theophan. I agree with everything you said and I appreciate your insight.

The Greeks HAD to reach-out or they would never have gotten started, nor would it have survived. For quite a few years they shared a priest with another parish located almost 200 miles away. My Ruthenian parish on the other hand receives just enough dissatisfied Latin Rite Catholics to fill-in for those that leave, without lifting a finger.

We so need to engage in outreach! I presented an idea to my pastor. During finals week for the two local colleges, it becomes impossible to find a place to study -- the libraries, campus study centers and coffee shops are packed. Given the location of our parish and given that we have a parish hall that could easily seat 100, I proposed that we open it (supervised) to students so they could study in quiet. I proposed that we serve coffee and hot chocolate -- that my wife and I would pay for. I even had some verbal commitments from those willing to supervise.

I was told "NO!" by the pastor -- that our ministry was not to provide a quiet place to study. No matter what we said, he just didn't get it. Later it hit me -- he may well have understood that it would be an effective way to evangelize, but he simply didn't want any extra work -- even though others would be doing 99% of it. In other words, he didn't want to be disturbed. I had mixed feelings a few years later when the local Presbyterian parish began hosting "Finals Week Study Center."

Then I urged my pastor to visit the nearby Newman Center staffed by two religious priests. He finally said he would. Huzzah! I envisioned a special Divine Liturgy every quarter/semester for college students, followed by a coffee social. I talked to the Newman priests and they said they would love for him to drop by -- they had already visited the Ruthenian parish. He finally did. When he returned his comments were "they do things differently than us!" in a disgusted voice. No kidding, padre! They're Latin Rite and they're 18-25 in age! They're also smart, inquisitive and quite serious about their faith. I volunteered to coordinate a welcoming Divine Liturgy and again was told "no!"

Anyone who talks to Catholic college students and reads about them online realizes they LOVE to go to Mass late on Sunday nights. There is even a bit of grumbling that the latest Local Masses at the local Newman Center and local parishes is 6:00. Online research showed that 9, 10 and even 11:00 PM Masses were quite common at churches/chapels that catered to students which sort of amazed me. I asked a number of students (about 80) when they would attend Mass if their choices were 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11:00? 10:00 PM was by far the #1 choice.

I was ON FIRE with this one! Put a sign on the front lawn and an ad in the college papers offering a 10:00 PM Sunday Divine Liturgy and the church would be packed. I quietly spoke to a cantor (a critical part of the DL) and he too was on fire. He said he wouldn't miss it. My wife and I also committed to not missing for the first year. Altar servers wouldn't have been a problem. The pastor who is young (and FAR from overworked!) flatly rejected it. That time around I have to say his response hardened me on this subject of evangelization in that parish.

Others have also offered great ideas and similarly get turned down. We've had 3 pastors. The founding pastor (RIP) would have been very supportive of this sort of thing, but he was simply too old and tired and he was a controlling sort which didn't allow things to go on that he did not personally control. The second pastor is bi-ritual who nixed getting involved with the Newman Center because he is a self-described "rad-trad." The late Sunday DL was rejected by the current pastor -- one born in a foreign land who seems to have distaste for the US -- other than for its bounty of course.

Our Ruthenian parish is truly blessed given its location and target rich environment for evangelization. I hope one day those blessings are put to good use.

Re: The bane of Eastern Christianity in America [Re: The young fogey] #417966
02/04/18 01:05 PM
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Glory to Jesus Christ !
Excuse me for butting in but if you want to have a 10:00 p.m. Sunday evening service wouldn't that be Compline or
Matins ? Don't need a priest for Matins. Why change our beautiful traditions to appease the masses?
May God bless and guide you in your endeavors.
Peace.




P.s. - You are blessed to have a priest , just saying.

Last edited by Michele; 02/04/18 01:09 PM.
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